The Order of the Palmetto is the highest civilian honor awarded by the Governor of South Carolina. It is awarded to persons who make contributions of statewide significance. An auxiliary honor is "The Order of the Silver Crescent." Today it is awarded to persons who make community or professional contributions of local significance.
Gov. John West created the Order of the Palmetto in 1971 to recognize lifetime achievement and service. It was modeled on similar honors bestowed in other states, such as the Kentucky Colonel and North Carolina's Order of the Longleaf Pine. The presentation is made in the form of a framed plaque. 
Over the years, the governors have awarded the honor to South Carolina leaders with a connection to the serving gubernatorial administration. The honor program has been modified. In 1997 Governor David Beasley established "The Order of the Silver Crescent" to recognize contributions by persons younger than 18.
In 1999 Governor Jim Hodges created a non-partisan screening panel to review nominations. The eligibility criteria for the "Silver Crescent" was changed to make it an auxiliary award, to be made without restrictions of age.
In 2003, Governor Mark Sanford created a panel to establish firm criteria for award eligibility. The goal was to change the perception that the order was a political send-off. Currently all nominations are required to be made in writing. Persons who make a contribution that has statewide significance are eligible. Those who make a local community or professional contribution are eligible for the Order of the Silver Crescent. The name of each award is based on prominent features of the state flag. No sitting legislator up for election is eligible for any award.
Among the awardees of the Order of the Palmetto were the rock band Hootie and the Blowfish, whom Gov. Jim Hodges recognized in 1999 for their charity efforts. Trial lawyer Druanne White was honored with the award in 2006.  Governors Henry McMaster and Nikki Haley received the award prior to their assuming office. 
The award comes in the form of a certificate or plaque that, in part, reads:
"In grateful recognition of your contributions and friendship to the State of South Carolina and her people, I do hereby confer unto you the Order of the Palmetto with all the rights and privileges appertaining thereto."
Since its creation, over 3,500 people have received the award.